The Age of Irregular Warfare: So What?

April 2, 2010  |  ARTICLES

As the new Joint Operating Concept for Irregular Warfare hits combatant commands and doctrine shops across the U.S. military, we find ourselves searching for new intellectual aids and policy tools that can provide certainty in an age that seems increasingly unpredictable and "irregular." We look back longingly to an age in which the battlefield was understandable, in which we thought we knew the enemy and the methods and means at his disposal. Even in this ninth year of an epoch-defining conflict, which for most Americans began on September 11, 2001, fundamental questions remain unanswered.

What is the nature of the enemy? Is it an organization, network, movement, or ideology? What are the long-term objectives of this enemy? Does it have a Clausewitzian center of gravity? Should we even use the term enemy, or should the vast resources that Washington dedicates to national security be spent instead on ameliorating the "upstream factors" behind violent extremism (to quote a phrase used by a close advisor to President Barack Obama)?

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